Roy is the fastest 3km man over 50 in the water

  • JackSportRoyLotkin
Three months back Roy Lotkin became the fastest South African swimmer over the age of 50 over 3km in the country.
by JACK MILNER | Sep 14, 2017

Swimming coach Lotkin, has contested the South African Masters Swimming Championship for the last 16 years with some very decent results, but this year in East London he capped it all when he won the 3000m swim in his age group.

Lotkin, who has been a professional swimming coach for almost 30 years, attributes his success this year to having a better “spiritual approach” to the sport.

Much changed for him over the last year when he started attending Emmarentia Shul. The old shul in Barry Hertzog Avenue in Johannesburg, has been closed for a number of years but it continued to exist in a smaller form.

He started attending Friday night service there and found Rabbi Rodney Richard very inspiring. 

“He kept me spiritually focused and that helped me a lot when I was competing,” he said.

Lotkin attended King David Victory Park and matriculated in 1977. He was always a top-class swimmer and in 1977, after setting a number of South African and provincial swimming records, he was named Sportsman of The Year at King David and also became a member of the first group of pupils to receive Maccabi scholarships.

“It was a big honour for me, but the scholarship was specifically available for me to continue my swimming in Israel and I never took it up.”

After that Lotkin did his military services and was sent up to what was then South West Africa and was based at Katima Mulilo in the Caprivi Strip, right along the banks of the Zambezi River. Often  a soldier benefited from being a top sportsman in the army, but for Lotkin it turned out to be a curse.

“I happened to be the only one in my battalion who had experience in swimming, so they wanted me to swim across the Zambezi into Zambia and do some reconnaissance on the strength of the Swapo troops who were based on the other side of the river.

“The Zambezi is infested with crocodiles and is one of the few rivers with freshwater sharks. At the beginning I refused but I was sent to detention barracks for disobeying a direst command, so eventually I agreed.”

The distance across the Zambezi at that point was around 800m. “We would survey the river and look where there was a lot less activity. It was very dangerous. It’s wild country up there. I then had to survey the camp, look how many troops there were and what sort of weapons they had and report back. I did it about four times in all.”

Once out of the army, Lotkin travelled to the US where he spent five years swimming on the competitive circuit and also coaching in California.

He returned to South Africa, but in 1995 his family emigrated to Australia and he decide to join them in Sydney.

“I had to study at the Institute of Sport – professional swimming coaching – in Sydney for three years in order to obtain citizenship. I graduated but did not take up citizenship and came back to South Africa.

“I have to admit that their facilities are spectacular, but I just wasn’t happy there.”

He then started coaching at the Linden Indoor Swimming Pool and that is when he got very involved in masters swimming.

“I’ve now competed in 16 South African National Masters Championships. Then on my 16th attempt over 3km, I finally won the gold medal, who now officially ranks me No 1 in men over 50 in 3000m in the country.”

Lotkin has been coaching at Linden for around 19 years but is still disappointed at the lack of up-and-coming Jewish swimmers in the country.

“Somehow we still seem to lack that top level of Jewish sportsmen and women in the country and swimming seems to be particularly poor.

“It would be great to see some top SA swimmers again, because we did have a few when I was swimming competitively.”



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